Purchasing Fanworks

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In the age of the Internet, many digital fanworks are available for free, but fans still buy and sell fanworks, especially those that exist solely in physical media.

Fan Art

a 1993 flyer for a fan's art for sale (SpartiWerks and Zaquia Tarhuntassa), printed in the zine Choices

Fan art is often sold through art shows, auctions at conventions and artists' personal websites. Both originals and prints are sold.

Fan artists also create art on commission, sometimes to illustrate scenes in fanfiction. The price of commissioned art usually depends on the medium (traditional media often being more expensive than digital art, oils/acrylics more expensive than pencil sketches), the size of the artwork and its complexity (number of figures, background etc).

Fan Crafts

Fan crafts are often sold through websites like Etsy, as well as through personal websites.


In Japan, many conventions exist mainly to sell doujinshi.


Before fandom had access to the Internet, most fanworks were consumed in the form of print fanzines. Zines cost money to produce and distribute.

Cost and Perceived Quality of Paper Zines

Many, many published zine reviews focused on whether the zine was worth the money.

There was much discussion and controversy about the purpose of zine reviews. Some fans felt reviews should only be positive and "nice." Other fans believed that comments about zines should be a guide for others regarding whether the zine was worth the money.

Fans almost never commented on "wasted time" spent reading fiction, but instead about whether the zine was "worth the money." Fiction and art was much less plentiful.

  • "What a pretty zine. From the beautiful pencil front cover to the delicate inked back cover, the art in this zine is nice! All of the stories and poems are nicely bordered, and the colored pencil portraits of Kirk and Spock are almost worth the cost of the zine by themselves." [1]
  • "One of the most fascinating things about the later Chalk and Cheeses is the Letters of Comment section (this is true of many older zines) where readers and contributors both sound off about what they liked in earlier issues. So you have, for example, a writer like Terence commenting honestly, if not always favorably, about her fellow authors' efforts -- it's refreshing. In fact, this section alone is almost worth the price of the zine if you're intrigued by the history of Pros fandom and its literary development." [2]
  • "There are 268 pages to this zine, and I went through them much too fast, but it seems that all good things end much too soon. You still have that thrill ahead of you. I will always be happy that I got this zine. Extremely well done, with many wonderful illos. More than worth the $12.40 first class pricetag. I honestly don't know how they could offer it at that price." [3]
  • "Much more could be said about this elegant story. If you haven't already read it, please do. This alone was worth the price of the zine. And the illustration is to die for. " [4]
  • "While some zines have one story that it worth the price, there was no one outstanding piece of writing in CT. [5]
  • "Had OMM been more tightly written and less dependent on old movies for its characters, I could recommend it unreservedly. As it goes, it's a ripping yarn, and to the reader whose first concern is not literary merit, worth the price, even with overseas postage.” [6]
  • "C. Faddis' illustrations are then made the bases for five short-shorts... This is something unique and of true fascination; here is a chance to compare and contrast the styles of several of the best trekwriters in town, and to see why they are the best. Besides, there are the illios themselves, haunting and hard. Folk art is seldom enough found, gang; you grab it when you can... IPH is worth the lauds, worth the critical abeyance, and worth the three bucks plus postage." [7]
  • "I hesitate to completely condemn another fan's hard work in a zine publication, but I did not enjoy any of these short stories. The cover art is nice and the diagrams for the ship are interesting but hardly worth the price of $7.00." about Thunderbolt! [8]
  • "Some of these little scenes feature the best colour renditions I've ever seen her do of Bodie, not to mention some of the best Bodie faces. I've often felt she slights him - especially making his eyes dull. Not here- Bodies eyes are rendered in all of their lush glory in several scenes. And her Cowley is wonderful. However, I also found some of the renditions of the lads quite poor and, other than the cover, none of her Doyles really clicked. So, I'd call the artwork uneven, and with the collage effect, I can't say that any one ilio strikes me as spectacular, but they are well worth the price of the zine. And the cover is quite striking. All in all this is a good read and nicely illustrated. It is expensive. But colour reproductions of Lovett's work are usually $30 all by themselves. So it's well woith the price. Unless vampires absolutely drive you crazy with loathing (and remember what I said at the beginning about being bored with the concept myself) I'd recommend this one." [9]

The Internet Brings a New Dimension

Many fans pointed out the exchange of money meant that you should be purchasing something of value:

...none of these things will change the basic fact of Internet fanfic -- it's a writer's world, not a reader's. Unlike 'zines, which you pay for and are allowed a certain amount of expectation, Internet fan-fiction comes with no guarantees, no rules, no respect. It's an ever-renewing pile of dung in which you must dig deeply for the oft-hidden jewels... [10]

In 1999, a fan explained how she felt the internet leveled the playing field in terms of personal taste:

there are a lot of stories I'm not wild about that have great public appeal, and that's fine. No one makin' me read 'em, nor are those readers compelled to read my stuff, which I assume they in turn don't find appealing. That's one of the nifty things about the web, as has been observed. You click "next" and the problem goes away. But would I want to pay $10 or $20 and find I had such a story? Aiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii. [11]

When computers and internet access started to become a reality for some fans, there was a shift in costs. There were many essays and comments by fans about how computers weren't free.

For several years I myself was hoping the internet would go away. It seemed economically and technologically elitist; as Raku points out fan fic on the web is free if you can afford a $1,500 computer. [12]

So let's start with the "netfic is free" idea. In currency terms, it isn't free for me, and never has been. By the time I had bought my computer, my monitor, my printer, a cart to put all of that on, a chair to sit at the cart to use it all, ink cartridges for the printer, paper for the printer, disks to save things, diskholders to hold the disks, binders to store the printouts... well, I was looking at about $3,500 for the setup. Plus $20/month for my ISP. That's how much I had to pay, and in part am still paying, for all this free netfic. [13]

Yes, printed zines are expensive. But so are computers and internet accounts. Someone who can afford to buy, say, six zines a year, may not be able to afford a computer and an internet account. Sadly, this is, in many ways, already a country of haves and have-nots. Do we really want to add K/S to the list of small luxuries which are unavailable to those of modest means? [14]

There also seems to be a common misconception that zine editors/publishers make profit off their publications while fanfic is free on the web, so let us restate here that we don't make *any* money with it. We're fortunate if we come out even, and we're publishing for love just as much as every writer or archivist on the web does. Secondly, fanfic on the web isn't exactly free either -- at least not for everyone. Most of us pay in hard cash for our Internet access. And while there's a lot of excellent fic on the web, it can be quite time-consuming to seek it out, which is another reason why we appreciate zines as a format where a certain quality control is in place. It's a service we appreciate and gladly pay for. [15]

Fans began to complain of wasted time and eyestrain, rather than wasted cash.

And currency aside, there's the most precious commodity of all: time. My time. My incredibly limited leisure time. I don't have 15 hours a day to read fanfic, blithely skimming and deleting until I get to something I like; on a good day, I have maybe 20 minutes. Maybe. If I give every story a 2-minute chance, and there are 10 lousy stories at the top of the pile, there goes my only reading time for the day. Something that uses up all my time is going to piss me off more than something that uses up all my money; I can get more money, but the time is gone forever. [16]

Plentiful fiction meant that the option of "pushing the back button" on works that were unsatisfactory. Money wasn't an issue any longer.

Money and the Purpose of Reviews

Some fans felt that when money changed hands, it was a reviewer's job to make sure that a fan got her or his money's worth.

Unlike reading slash stories on the Net, when you read a bad slash zine, or simply one you dislike, you're out a considerable bit of cash, and now have to go to the effort of finding the zine a new home, to recoup some of your losses. It's not as simple as pressing a delete key. That's why I am honest in my reviews of slash zines. These are marketed stories, that are sold as a product. Granted, the publishers aren't making any money off of these zines. But they are charging the money it costs to publish them, which is often considerable. Most new zines cost around $25 US dollars. When you add on postage, especially to overseas, it really adds up. For that reason, I think zines have every right to be reviewed by their reading audience. I'm not into negative reviews of slash stories on the Net. Why waste energy on something that can easily be deleted and forgotten? But when we're talking rating a product this is bought and sold, it's different.[17]

Raonaid's Home Page

Getting Your Money's Worth

Also see White Space. Also see Fandom and Profit.

In 1995 (which was right on the brink of desktop publishing and the internet), a fan, Sandy Herrold, brought up the issue of font size and fan's getting their money's worth:

I understand that zine editors want their zines to be readable, and even beautiful. All things being equal, if I'm going to put that much time into something, I too would want it to look nice.

I understand that every editor has their own idea of the perfect/appropriate font size. [April Valentine], for example, seems to believe that the fannish eye will be fatigued if it has to read more than about 300 words per page, where Kate Nuernberg should have included a magnifying glass along with British Takeaway, (like the compact OED).

But within these bounds, why are zine eds so determined to give so much of my money to Kinkos?

Now this is a little complicated, but think about it. Zine Ed 1 puts out 85,000 words. She uses 110 pages to do it, using adequate but not extravagant borders and efficient use of double columns.

Zine Ed 2 puts out 85,000 words. She uses 150 pages to do it, in virtually the same type size but with larger borders or single column (or the occasional really badly done two column--remember, Dotty?).

Both of these zines cost $15.00.

Zine Ed 1 pockets more money. I'm going to be a fandom romantic for a minute and say that making that extra money makes her more likely to call writers about editing problems, makes her more like to travel to cons and not just let Billboy sell her zines; that that money has a fannish effect.

Zine Ed 2 gives more moneys to Kinkos (or some struggling Ma and Pa printer in her town, or whatever). While this is no crime, neither is it a virtue. Basic economic theory of community says the more times money is passed around in a community before it leaves, the more financially healthy the community will be. I'd rather (within reason) give my money to my zine ed than put her printer's kids through community college.

With electronic layout that 99.8% of zine eds have now, it is way past time for people to give up the idea that 10 cents a page is an intelligent way to spend their fannish dollar. As I understand it, that's the point of word count in the beginning.

Something else just occurred to me; perhaps some of it is just the desire to have all of your zines be the same cost. Especially after the first 5 -10 zines in your press, it makes sense that standardizing your prices makes it easier to sell them. If you have a slightly smaller zine one issue (not as many stories submitted, whatever), people have a psychological problem paying 15$ once the zine gets too small in their hand, so you inflate the page numbers by fiddling your layout. You aren't making any more money (still selling 150 pages for 15$) so you don't feel bad, but your audience is paying more for less.

I do see that having zines priced anywhere from 10-20 bucks would drive me crazy when I was sitting watching someone else's table. I have never published a zine, so I don't even know if this last guess is even valid.

I'm not accusing publishers of anything here, btw, and I'm sorry if it sounds like I am. I just think that some of the attitudes about publishing (not wanting to rip off the zine buyer) can actually have the opposite effect. [18]


See also: Writing Commissions

With the exception of charity auctions, online fanfiction is not commonly written for purchase. It's rare but not completely unheard of for fan writers to ask for donations to cover their living expenses while continuing to write a popular story, but it is not usually phrased as purchasing the fanfiction.

Fanfiction that is printed in fanzines is technically written for purchase, since fanzines are bought and sold. However, the tribber's compensation is usually a free copy of the zine, rather than money.

Game Mods

Often, ROM hacks are sold on reproduction carts. These are often earlier versions and impossible to update.

Does the Content of Fanworks Change When Money Has Changed Hands?

See Also

Further Reading


  1. ^ about California K/S from Not Tonight, Spock! #8
  2. ^ about Chalk and Cheese #4 from JGL at The Hatstand
  3. ^ about Mind Meld #2 from Universal Translator #29
  4. ^ about Tirizandi from The K/S Press #72
  5. ^ about The Celestial Toybox #6 from The Blackwood Project #9
  6. ^ about One More Mountain from S and H #30
  7. ^ about Interphase from The Halkan Council #10 (September 1975)
  8. ^ from Jundland Wastes #11
  9. ^ about All the Queen's Men from DIAL #6
  10. ^ from Mako's Tank: Daily Ravings of a Slash Hysteric -- Rant Ahead/reference link, posted December 1, 2001, accessed June 5, 2013
  11. ^ from A 1999 Interview with Skazinetilsky
  12. ^ reactions to Killashandra's interview/Wayback, posted August 29, 1999, accessed June 10, 2013
  13. ^ from Netfic is free, so stop complaining by Arduinna, posted May 2000
  14. ^ from The K/S Press #9 (May 1997)
  15. ^ from In a Different Light - Shifting Stories from Web to Print/WebCite by Zine Union List Members, posted January 23, 2001, accessed June 6, 2013
  16. ^ from Netfic is free, so stop complaining by Arduinna, posted May 2000
  17. ^ "Raonaid's Note About Her Zine Page". 2003-05-17. Archived from the original on 2013-06-20.
  18. ^ from Sandy Herrold on Virgule-L, quoted with permission (Sep 15, 1995)
  19. ^ reference link.